October 12, 2010 11:23:00 AM
The owner of a business on Warpath Road found herself in the same position she was in last month after the Planning and Zoning Commission again denied her request for a zoning change Monday.
Janet Morris, owner of The Beauté Salon at the corner of Warpath and Lehmberg Road, was denied permission to add a 200-square-foot shoe store to her salon. The board based its decision on a city zoning ordinance which states "a nonconforming building or structure shall not be added to or enlarged in any manner unless said building or structure, including addition and enlargements, is made to conform to all of the regulations of the district in which it is located."
The location of Morris'' salon is nonconforming because the area is zoned R-1, single family residential. The business was grandfathered in when the area was annexed into the city.
Morris amended her earlier request for a zoning change to a conditional use request, which stipulated the lot and proposed building, even if sold, could only be used for a salon and shoe store. Additionally, the lot would revert to a single-family dwelling if at any time it sat vacant for six months.
The conditional use request could not be granted because it conflicted with the zoning ordinance. And the Planning and Zoning Commission does not have the power to "spot zone" individual lots.
Just as she did following the commission''s September ruling, Morris plans to appeal to the Columbus City Council.
The first time Morris was denied, the planning commission ruled she failed to prove that the neighborhood where she was requesting a zoning change had changed in character, despite the construction of the Lowndes County Health Department right across the street from the salon.
Upon Morris'' first appeal, the city council ruled to send the matter back to the planning commission to try and find some acceptable compromise between Morris and the residents opposed to commercial properties on Warpath Road.
The city council, which does have the authority to "establish any special conditions or restrictions on a property that are felt to be in the best interest of the citizens of Columbus," nearly voted 4-2 to grant Morris'' request in September before Ward 1 Councilman Gene Taylor changed his vote during the meeting. Mayor Robert Smith broke the deadlock by voting to send the matter back to the planning commission.
Councilmen remain split on the merits of Morris'' claims.
"I''m of the opinion that the neighborhood has changed. If the health department isn''t change, I don''t know what is," said Ward 5 Councilman Kabir Karriem.
"To me it''s pretty evident the neighborhood has not changed enough to warrant a (zoning) change," said Ward 6 Councilman Bill Gavin.
Morris stated before Monday''s meeting she expected the planning commission to deny her request and she had already decided to appeal the decision to the city council.
After quickly deciding on Morris'' request, the planning commission turned its attention to a proposed ordinance governing LED, or light-emitting diode, signs within city limits.
The city currently has a moratorium in place preventing more signs from being installed.
Scott Pridmore, vice president of Mid-South Signs, and Jason Clark, manager of the UPS Store Sign Shop, both advised the commission. Both also sell LED signs in Columbus.
The ordinance is being proposed for aesthetic reasons.
Pridmore and Clark agreed on several points, among them that the signs should be clearly legible during the day, automatically dimmed at night and location should determine the pixel pitch of the sign.
Pixel pitch refers the distance between diodes on a sign. The closer the diodes, the sharper the image. Therefore, Pridmore and Clark agree tall signs within 1,500 feet of the bypass should have a higher pixel pitch, around 38 mm, to make them visible and legible at a distance to fast-moving vehicles.
The two differed on establishing a pixel density limit for signs aimed at traffic on city highways.
Clark argued against locking in a rigid pixel rate, advocating instead that buyers follow manufacturer recommendations for installation. Those recommendations include the appropriate height and distance from the road a sign should be installed for maximum visibility.
Pridmore suggested a pixel pitch maximum of 20 mm within city limits. He said larger measurements, such as Ashley Furniture''s 34 mm sign, often fragment improperly formatted graphics because the resolution is too low to recreate the image.
"I sold (Ashley Furniture) that sign. And I wish I had sold them a 20 mm," said Pridmore.
Clark questioned whether the city should force sign purchasers to buy the more expensive 20 mm message centers.
The commission ended its meeting by asking Pridmore and Clark to reach an acceptable compromise and share their recommendation with zoning officer Kenny Wiegel. Wiegel will present a recommendation to the planning commission at its November meeting.
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